By: David Ripert, CEO and co-founder of Poplar Studio
Over the last year, businesses, brands and retailers have all suffered as a result of lockdowns, restrictions and physical limitations. Those with strong eCommerce strategies were competing within the digital space as nations worldwide turned to online shopping as their main method for purchasing goods.
Taking fashion and clothing for example, a customer journey where they may have tried on clothes in store to understand sizing, fit and styles before purchasing either in store or online, was forced solely online. With brands fighting for attention and attempting to provide the best user experience online, the use of innovative technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) became a key way of standing out from the crowd. AR gives brands the ability to replace the experience of trying on products before purchase, a necessary feature since the pandemic but also one that suits customer shopping habits and will likely only increase in popularity and use.
Research from Deloitte indicates 71% of customers say the availability of AR experiences would encourage them to shop more frequently, while 61% would choose outlets with AR instead of those without it.
3D modelling is changing the face of eCommerce sites
3D product modelling often goes hand in hand with AR as a tool to make eCommerce sites stand out. 3D models are photorealistic portrayals of real-world products viewed on screen. Almost anything you can photograph can be turned into a 3D model – from beds and tables to handbags and cars.
We’re already seeing brands take advantage of this technology to increase engagement on their sites at a time when consumer’s attention is at an all time low. For example, pram and pushchair retailer Bumbleride decided to create 3D models of its products, and as a result the average time spent by customers on the site increased by 21% and their conversion rate improved by 33%.
3D modelling on websites brings products to life, giving customers the closest depiction to what it would look like in real life without having the physical product. With a 3D model you can see every angle of something before you buy it, with to-scale sizing and exact colouring. Combined with AR tech, the consumer will be able to take this realistic model and see it in their world by using their mobile device, which enables them to place the virtual product in their environment to see how it will fit within their space.
The rise of social eCommerce through AR tech
Social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are beginning to understand the true commercial potential beyond existing advertising strands, blurring the line between social media and eCommerce. As well as adding features that allow users to shop directly within these social platforms, they’re also incorporating AR technology that allow customers to try on products using AR within these social media platforms, ultimately leading to an increase in sales.
Instagram released ‘Checkout’ in March last year, letting users buy products without leaving the app. In May 2020, Facebook launched Facebook Shop, integrating in-app purchases as well as transactions in Whatsapp. The newest social behemoth , TikTok, has also been quick to develop its eCommerce offering, launching features including live stream shopping, product catalogues and allowing users to post product links – from which the platform earns commission.
Now the social platforms are beginning to compete with the larger eCommerce sites, they need to address one of the key factors of a shopping experience – visualising products in a space or trying on makeup or clothes before purchase, which is where AR comes in. Instagram has implemented the software for users to virtually try on makeup and sunglasses in partnership with bands like Ray-Ban and MAC Cosmetics. None of this is possible without AR technology and brands understand that their target audience have an appetite for this type of engagement and experience.
AR on social media performs two main roles – to increase engagement with a brand or product and to make the likelihood of purchase significantly increase. In fact, visualisation of a product is so important that customers are up to 11 times more likely to buy a product when AR try-on or product visualisation is available. This can be applicable to cosmetics and fashion items as well as larger items such as beds, tables and sofas.
We are all familiar by now with face filters on social media – the AR effects that transform your face. Businesses have already been utilising branded filters to get users engaged with their brands and share with friends and fans, increasing the circle of influence they have. The face filters can also have another purpose – helping users visualise cosmetics products on them. For example, using a hair colour or brow product to see what it would look like as close to real life as possible without having to try samples on.
The reason behind the increased likelihood of purchasing after interacting with an AR experience is because AR provides immersive experiences which keep customers engaged for longer than a standard image, or even video. Recently, Poplar Studio’s AR filter produced more than 3 billion impressions for Maybelline’s ‘#LiftMyMood’ lip gloss campaign, showing users an array of colour shades before allowing them to choose from three different types of products prior to purchase.
Social media companies are only at the beginning of their investment into accommodating AR technology onto their platforms. Face filters and product visualistion and try-ons are just the start, and the platforms are looking at other ways the smartphone can be used to track different parts of the body.
Last year, Snapchat was the first platform to release foot tracking, partnering with Gucci to provide AR shoe try-ons. The social platform then released full body tracking for dance challenges on TikTok, paving the way for the technology to be used by the fashion industry for trying on whole outfits. Other platforms are looking to catch up to these developments, working on wrist and hand tracking to open up possibilities of trying on jewellery and watches at home on social media too.
Not only do businesses need to integrate social platforms into their eCommerce strategy, but also utilising tech innovations such as AR to provide as much of an interactive and engaging experience as possible for their potential customers. Social platforms are competing to become the next essential app for visual shopping. With developments across AR glasses and visual search, AR is set to transform the eCommerce space for years to come.